Versatile guitarist and bandleader Isaiah Sharkey returned to the Blue Note Jazz Club on Thursday evening to continue his ongoing six-night, twelve-show residency at the iconic New York haunt.
While he has made a name for himself as a secret weapon sideman with everyone from D’Angelo to John Mayer, the Chicago-native Sharkey looked right at home as the center of attention at the Blue Note, wowing the cabaret crowd not just with his virtuosic playing but with his magnetic performance as lead vocalist.
Isaiah quickly captured the room as he led the his band—featuring Eric Johnson on drums, Maurice Fitzgerald on bass, Tim Tribitt on keys, and Marqueal Jordan on saxophone, percussion, and backing vocals—through a blast of Albert King energy by way of blues classic “Born Under A Bad Sign”.
“We like all different types of music,” he mused after the song, a knowing grin creeping across his face. “Like blues, which we just did. Jazz… Hip-hop… Soul… Pop… Rock… Old school R&B…” Isaiah and company would go on to check all of those boxes and more throughout Thursday’s two-hour late show, often blurring the lines between them in unique and mystifying ways.
An early cover of The Spinners‘ “It’s A Shame” briefly got a traditional R&B reading before Isaiah called a mulligan and restarted the tune with a swaggering, Soulquarians-style swing (“We’re not gonna do it like that,” he smiled before the switch-up, “We’re gonna do our own version”). Later, a smooth “Sharkey version” of Daryl Hall & John Oates‘ “Sara Smile” benefitted from Isaiah’s technical yet delicate abilities on six strings.
Covers are fun, sure, but Sharkey delighted in extolling the virtues of original music throughout the night. His latest single, the slow-burning “Stay“, appropriately served as one of the evening’s big highlights. An Isley Brothers-style R&B vamp awash with lead runs and exploded chord voicings, adorned by harmonics and hammer-ons, and strung together with a genius-level phrasing and tastefully reserved dynamics, this “Stay” was a showcase for all of the traits that have made Isaiah Sharkey your favorite guitarist’s favorite guitarist through the years.
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The theme of supporting original artists making original noise held true as singer Kenneth Whalum joined the band for a few of his own tunes off his two full-length albums, Broken Land and Broken Land 2.
Once Whalum cleared the stage, the next few songs served to showcase the band, each talented player taking clear yet understated opportunities to shine within their respective roles. Vibing along with calculated prudence, these monster musicians—each blessed with world-class chops when you let them run wild—doled out their talents in sips, not gulps, as they coolly displayed the magic inherent in restraint and the beauty that comes with simplicity.
Isaiah Sharkey is set to continue his Blue Note residency with two shows a night through Sunday, May 22nd. For tickets to the Blue Note shows, head here.
Among the highlights of Sharkey and company’s upcoming tour schedule is a stop at beloved St. Augustine, FL destination event Fool’s Paradise on June 4th and 5th. Sharkey will perform two sets at St. Augustine Amphitheatre on June 5th alongside Umphrey’s McGee, Lettuce, Andy Frasco & The U.N., and Jennifer Hartswick & Nick Cassarino. For tickets and more information, head here.